When I was a kid, my parents gifted me a book about Pablo Picasso. I remember not only the images of his art, but the book talked about the different periods that describe Picasso’s artistic life. There was the blue period and the rose period. Following these, were the African-influenced, Analytic Cubism and Synthetic Cubism periods. After that were periods of neoclassical style and surrealism.
Over the years, I often thought of this book. All of us go through phases in life.
Sometimes I Wonder How I Would Break My Life Into Periods?
What would their title be?
It could be the
- Germany period,
- Tennessee period,
- Postdoctoral period
- Southern California period, and
- Texas period?
Or is it even more diverse?
The Germany Period
The German period breaks down into the toddler period which I spent in the little town of Lindlar followed by growing up in Kierspe, back then a town of around 10,000 people.
The Kierspe period had several more subperiods:
- Elementary school grades 1-4.
- Gymnasium grades 5-7.
- Then my life-changing switch to the local Gesamtschule (Comprehensive school) grades 8-13.
At the Gesamtschule, I met Bernd Kussner, my chemistry teacher. He led me to think that I can be successful in science – even though in my old school I hadn’t had the chance to study it. I felt I was behind before I even had started. With this encouragement, I excelled. Eventually, I chose chemistry as my career path.
When I was 17, I got so passionate about rock climbing that I swore I would never marry anyone who was not a rock climber. By the time I met my husband I had moved into my “scuba diving period.” We met on a dive boat in the channel islands off the coast of Southern California.
Then there was the Marburg (Germany) period. This period was all about moving away from home, studying chemistry at the university, and meeting a diverse group of people from all over the world.
My Tennessee Period
When I was in ninth grade I decided that I would go on an exchange program as soon as I could. Three years after starting my studies in Marburg, I was finally able to make that happen.
Studying chemistry at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and getting to know America was my game plan. I loved how international the experience was.
As my nine-month exchange program in Knoxville progressed, my research advisor invited me to stay for the Ph.D. program in Knoxville. I thanked him and declined. I decided I would stay another year for the Master’s degree and then go back to Germany for the Ph.D.
A year later, I got a prestigious offer of a Ph.D. position in Germany. I had the chance to study with Prof. Wolfgang Hermann who is very well known in the field of organometallic chemistry. I visited him and his group.
Something in my gut told me “no.” I turned down the offer and stayed in Knoxville.
My advisor Prof. Craig Barnes had become something like my American Dad. I was learning a lot, loved the people I was with and had a great time. Also, by then I thought I might want to become a professor of chemistry in the U.S. (the American academic system is far less hierarchical than the German one).
Discovering the “I’m Like A Microbrew” Period
The moment of saying “no” to this offer was pivotal. I decided to charter my own success rather than attaching it to the fame of someone else. My friend Tony and I were discussing this decision over hot chicken wings and cold beer. I will never forget him lifting up a bottle of Heineken and saying this to me.
“Stephie, you have to decide whether you want to be like this beer. Everyone reads the label and knows what it tastes like. Or you can be a microbrew. People have to taste it, before they know how well they like it.”Toney Carey
This was the beginning of my “’ I’m a microbrew’ period” – this period will not end as long as I am alive.
My Postdoctoral Period
I graduated with a Ph.D. in chemistry in 1994. The next three years were my “postdoc period.” I moved to three different places and experienced lots of changes. I become a hobbyist woodworker, too. I canoed on bayous and tried flyfishing. Along the way, I realized that I did not want to stay in academia after all. Research & development yes, academia no.
The Southern Californian Period
That realization and a successful job search began my “Southern California period.” It has subperiods, too.
- The “Pre-husband period.”
- The “Married without kids” period
- The “Married with kid” period
Or you could throw in,
- the “Working at an R&D company period” and
- the “Being in my own business period.”
All of it involved a lot of fun, aha moments, and challenges. I lived in Southern California for 22 years. I formed amazing relationships along the way.
And moving from academia to an R&D company to then owning my own business – well, that was and still is one heck of an adventure.
The Texas Phase
When my family and I moved to Texas in the summer of 2019 it was again a brand-new period.
I was anxious about the move. Yes, I had gone from Germany to the U.S. 30 years before. But I was in my early 20s then. Now 30 years later, how would it be “to start all over” with establishing myself in a new place? I had never lived in any area as long as I had in Southern Califonia. How easy would it be to gain new friends, and establish a local business network? Would I fit in? Would people like and accept me?
It is a real blessing that it is going well beyond all my expectations. Texas is an amazing place with even more amazing people. There are many opportunities in business and in life as a whole. We live ten minutes from a beautiful lake and state park. We have more land than ever before. We remodeled the house we bought and made it our own.
And I learned real friends stay in touch, even when you move.
Moving to Texas also started my “Rotary Club period.” I resumed my “Toastmasters period.” Both are amazing. I continue my “Martial Arts period” which I started with my dear friend Amy and the West Coast Dragons in 2015.
The periods that make up our life keep things interesting. We grow. What interests us is waxing and waning. That is normal.
Pablo Picasso Ran Out Of “Blue” … Or Did He?
Near the end of his “blue period,” Pablo Picasso was probably getting tired of painting in blue. He might have thought to himself “Let’s try painting in rose” and so the Rose Period began. Or maybe he ran out of blue and had a pot of rose paint. Just kidding. But you get the point.
In life, sometimes we start a new period, and sometimes it is started for us.
In any case, a new period always holds new opportunities, new experiences, and new challenges.
With them come various emotions. Some we like and some we’d rather not experience. Joy, happiness, contentment, elation – we love those feelings. But fear, frustration, and sometimes even anger, we don’t care for those feelings. (I’m saying “we” assuming that you feel like I do?) Yet, they are two sides of the same coin. It’s important to realize that we are going through phases. We experience change – some of it is wanted, and some of it is unplanned and maybe unwanted.
For me, what’s most important is to have good people with me on my path no matter which period I’m in. I do my best to steer my life in the direction that seems appealing to me. But I also realize unforeseen things happen. And I do my best to stay open to new phases I have not thought of on my own.
What phase are you in right now? And who is there with you to enjoy the journey and support you when you need it?
I’d really love to hear that. Period. (Get the pun?!) 🙂
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